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Extended Audio Sample Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History, by Rhonda Garelick Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Rhonda Garelick Narrator: Tavia Gilbert Publisher: Highbridge Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Certain lives are at once so exceptional and yet so in step with their historical moments that they illuminate cultural forces far beyond the scope of a single person. Such is the case with Coco Chanel, whose life offers one of the most fascinating tales of the twentieth century—throwing into dramatic relief an era of war, fashion, ardent nationalism, and earth-shaking change.

Coco Chanel transformed forever the way women dressed. Her influence remains so pervasive that to this day we can see her afterimage in all the little black dresses, flat shoes, costume jewelry, cardigan sweaters, and tortoiseshell eyeglasses on women of every age and background. A bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume is sold every three seconds. Arguably, no other individual has had a deeper impact on the visual aesthetic of the world. But how did a poor orphan become a global icon of both luxury and everyday style?

Raised in rural poverty and orphaned early, the young Chanel supported herself as best she could. Then, as an uneducated nineteen-year-old café singer, she attracted the attention of a wealthy and powerful admirer and parlayed his support into her own hat-design business. For the rest of Chanel’s life, the professional, personal, and political were interwoven. Hr lovers included composer Igor Stravinsky, Romanov heir Grand Duke Dmitri, a Nazi officer, among many others. Nevertheless, she was profoundly alone, her romantic life relentlessly plagued by abandonment and tragedy.

Chanel’s ambitions and accomplishments were unparalleled. Her hat shop evolved into a clothing empire. She became a noted theatrical and film costume designer. By age forty, she had become a multimillionaire and a household name, and her Chanel Corporation is still the highest-earning privately owned luxury goods manufacturer in the world.

In Mademoiselle, Garelick delivers the most probing, well-researched, and insightful biography to date on this seemingly familiar but endlessly surprising figure—a work that is truly both a heady intellectual study and a literary page-turner.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “This is the definitive biography of Chanel. It is also the life of one of the most successful world conquerors who has ever imposed her will on a vast subject population. It is gripping, astute, and elegantly written.”

    Judith Thurman, author of the National Book Award–winning Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller

  • “In this magisterial, affecting portrait, Rhonda K. Garelick traces Chanel’s history as a woman and as a designer and in doing so illuminates the troubling contradictions of twentieth-century Europe. Her book is a masterwork of original research and psychological nuance, remarkable in combining insight into her subject with insight into modernity entire.”

    Andrew Solomon, author of the National Book Award–winning The Noonday Demon

  • “Garelick expertly illuminates the forces that created one of the world’s most iconic brands. Mademoiselle is a fascinating account of the grit as well as the glamour behind the rise of Coco Chanebel.”

    Amanda Foreman, New York Times bestselling author of Georgiana

  • “Garelick can convincingly, and engagingly, illuminate a succession of parallels between fashion and politics.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “As this new biography by Rhonda Garelick demonstrates amply, Chanel’s life was as fascinating and richly diverse as it was epoch-making. Already being hailed as the definitive life, Mademoiselle conceals its meticulous research in its flowing narrative.”

    Barnes&Noble.com, editorial review

  • “Writing an exhaustive biography of Chanel is a challenge comparable to racing a four-horse chariot…This makes the assured confidence with which Garelick tells her story all the more remarkable.”

    New York Review of Books

  • “Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel wanted to both hide her life story and to share it, a contradiction that confounded previous potential biographers. In this well-researched and buoyant biography, fashion writer Garelick’s stated goal is to analyze the ‘uncanny historical reach of Coco Chanel’ and the ways in which Chanel’s constant reinvention provides a model for modern women…Garelick deftly situates Chanel in political and cultural history; in addition, the book’s extensive archival sources and new interviews make it a valuable resource for scholars.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “An admiring but evenhanded portrait of Coco Chanel…Though providing no new revelations, Garelick offers a fine psychological portrait of the poor orphaned girl who spent seven years in an abbey, where she learned to sew and feel safety within its reassuring order and cleanliness…Certainly a definitive portrait, especially considering Garelick’s intriguing venture into modern ‘branding.’”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “As Tavia Gilbert leads the listener through Coco Chanel’s countless alliances and conquests, she reveals Coco’s driving ambition and eccentricities…Gilbert elegantly portrays the multitude of Chanel’s wealthy lovers and financial backers, ranging from the Duke of Westminster to a Nazi officer. Gilbert’s smooth pronunciation of French names is melodic but understandable to the American listener, and her consistent pace carries through the author’s complex comparisons of Chanel’s relationships to the politics of her time…[A] vibrant narration.”


  • “A stylish book about style, based on meticulous research and a deep understanding of French culture. Rhonda Garelick tells this extraordinary story with just the right blend of sympathy and judgment, in an utterly readable account.”

    Peter Brooks, author of Reading for the Plot and Henry James Goes to Paris

  • “Garelick explores the world of Coco Chanel in intimate—and intricate—detail, revealing the life and times of the woman she astutely describes as ‘understanding how the right labels can govern desire.’ This is a must-have book for followers of fashion and social history devotees alike.”

    Lindy Woodhead, author of War Paint and Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge

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About the Author

Rhonda K. Garelick writes on fashion, performance, art, and cultural politics. Her books include Rising Star: Dandyism, Gender, and Performance in the Fin de Siècle; Electric Salome: Loie Fuller’s Performance of Modernism, and, as coeditor, Fabulous Harlequin: ORLAN and the Patchwork Self. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, New York Newsday, International Herald Tribune, and the Sydney Morning Herald, as well as in numerous journals and museum catalogs in the United States and Europe. She is a Guggenheim fellow and has also received awards from the Getty Research Institute, the Dedalus Foundation, the American Association of University Women, the Whiting Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Garelick received her BA and PhD in comparative literature and French from Yale University.